Monday, December 29, 2008

Tres Bon! Dinan!

As the New Year approached I was feeling somewhat ho-hum glum like a lot of other people. Gnarling over the economy, the belt tightening, and not just because of over-indulgence, and that post-Holiday feeling of putting all the tired-looking decorations away even though I am back to work already with root canal follow-ups and a daughter who had surgery today. Never fun.

As artists there are moments that change your life. I had one of those today when the mail arrived.  The letter, with scrawly handwriting and a foreign stamp that I had been waiting for, sat there for 30 minutes before I wanted to open it. I just kept painting a child's arm badly while looking at it out of the corner of  my eye.

I had applied for an  international grant award last Fall to study in France for a month, a program that has been going since the early 90's in Dinan, Brittany, and host to some artists I really, really admire like Dawn Whitelaw and Charlotte Wharton among others.

The award,  given by Les Amis De La Grande Vigne, funds an artist to paint for a month at the studio of deceased artist Yvonne Jean-Haffen. She left her estate including a studio to the town. Her home is now a museum which picks one of the guest residence artist's paintings at the end of his/her stay for its' permanent collection.  

Applying was somewhat vague. It was hard to find the right mailing address and I was told by a very kind email artist friend, who helped me enormously having received the award also, that the application must be handwritten in very polite french and on very proper linen stationary. The french are just like that and I love them for it. Hard trying to find someone who spoke really good french for cheap to help me, but even more hard to ask how 'polite' their french really was.  I  also wasn't really sure if my swish Mac Book portfolio that took me a morning to do, at least, would get there, yet alone be approved. Maybe it was a bit too Mac Book modern along with the traditional startionary?

So here was the day of reckoning and all I could think of staring at the brown envelop was it doesn't look thick enough for me to be a recipient. You know how you can tell if you didn't get into an art show via mail announcement without even opening the envelope? By how thick the reply envelope is. Slim - NO, not a chance or juicy thick,,,hell, YES!

I didn't want to feel that horrible sting of rejection as I was feeling pretty lousy already for said reasons. Well, I finally took a big deep breath, opened it and I got it. Tres Jolie! Although it took me a while to translate french and make sure I had got it.

I am so thrilled. I don't even care I have to go to the dentist again tomorrow.

Let just hope I paint better there than that kid's arm today. Thank goodness for landscapes.  At least there is no muscle anatomy involved.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Look what happens when you paint from life regularly. You end up in a museum!!

Joking aside...this is a neat Photoshop-y thing doing the art rounds. Have fun with your art/images at


And you know what your art New Year's Resolution should be! Paint from life.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Don't Count Your Chickens...

I know this is a portrait blog, and that is what I spend most of my time thinking about, portraiture - not this blog, but I was a little taken aback yesterday when I heard a still life of mine has been juried into The California Art Club Gold Medal Show for May 2009. The portrait I had entered which I thought the BEST piece I had done all year did not. And I just put it in a really expensive custom frame. Never count your chickens before they are hatched.

I should add that in reality I have long given up 'expecting' to get into any show. That way it is a bonus when it happens.

I enjoy painting still life. I am not saying they are easy but I find them a really nice break from the rigors of portrait commissions. And I look on them as a little treat to myself between said work. Sometimes a still life set up will stare at me for weeks waiting for me to get to it. And I will kind of talk to it, telling it to be patient. I will get there. Yes, I am certifiable it seems.

I also admire artists who paint still life so well. David Leffel comes to mind. About as good as still life gets in terms of a high level of Rembrandt understanding. Sad that so many Leffel wannabes are out there though.  I get annoyed when I see that. That applies to Richard Schmid wannbes too. I like all sorts of still life painting styles to from Wayne Thiebaud  and Duane Keiser (EBAY Painting a Day Maestro) to Laura Robb, magical soft, soft edges ( One focal point.

In my teaching class at LAAFA, I suggest that an artist must paint it all. There is so much to learn from painting a still life. And if you can paint an apple really well around value, color, and drawing, you can start to approach the head with some understanding of the task ahead. My teacher, the marvelous Everett Raymond Kinstler, N.A., ( always says a portrait painter should paint landscapes and vice versa to really learn.

I don't feel I am very good at landscapes at all. I just don't really have a desire to paint them. But I make myself do it especially on trips. Easy then to squeeze something in. Especially when you have carried that darn heavy painting box (Guerilla Pochade)  through airport security and customs. You might as well get something out of it. I also paint them really small. Get in and out as fast as I can.

I post here the CAC Gold entry, Pansies and Pear, 16 x 20, and also a still life I just finished this week, Geisha and Mumms, 16x20.